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On springtime, with a beet-feta tart

I have a confession to make.
I have a dark, dirty, now-not-so-secret fascination with the “missed connections” listings on craigslist. It’s not that I go there expecting to find a message left expressly for me, although I suppose it wouldn’t be entirely out of the question to see “Hottie buying Chocolove 77% at Whole Foods - m4w – 28,” or perhaps “Saturday Pilates vixen in black ninja outfit – m4w – 26.” No, mine is, as you might expect, a curiosity vaguely informed by anthropology. After all, it is springtime, and true to our most basic animal instincts, humans everywhere—but especially on craigslist—are on the hunt for a mate. It’s very entertaining to watch and read, and cheaper even than a trashy romance novel. And anyway, sometimes anthropology is nothing more than glorified voyeurism.

Although this is not exactly the kind of study that will help me to finish my thesis, it does get me thinking. In springtime, any space with or without four walls starts to look like a bedroom, from buses to bus stops, elevators, and entire streets—not to mention my personal weakness, the grocery store, where the term “check-out line” takes on a whole new meaning. At this time of year, everything is an aphrodisiac, from ginger to gas fumes. And though we seem to be feeling unusually hopeful and open-minded about the sexy possibilities around the next corner, I’d like to point out one that you might not have dared to consider: beets.

Beets aren’t your typical erotic fare, I know. But given the proper context and care, they—like so many others who are rough, misunderstood, and given to spending lots of time underground—can be transformed into something surprisingly luscious. Take, for instance, a beet-feta tart.

I first tasted this tart at a loosely aphrodisiacs-themed dinner party back in late February. For the occasion, Kate had roasted a chicken and served it on a platter of red rose petals, with handcuffs around its legs and a thin black satin ribbon tied around one of its wings. Margot and Todd arrived with a perky green salad served in a bowl looped with a danger-sexy spike-studded belt, and for my part, I whipped up a rum cream pie topped with chopped pistachios and shaved chocolate, banking on the age-old formula of booze plus whipped cream. There were also, of course, the standbys: oysters, strawberries, wine, melted chocolate, and so on. But the vedette of the evening was the beet-feta tart brought by a friend of a friend whose name I can no longer remember. I didn't, however, forget the important details: the tart looked like a sheet of hot-pink satin overlaid with off-white lace, and it was blush-inducingly delicious. It brought together the dark, earthy flavor of beets—sweet and rich, with a welcome bitter edge—and the salty tang of feta, binding them in a smooth, eggy custard.

The party didn’t exactly turn into a display of our most basic animal instincts, but the tart was plenty satisfying. And now that the season is optimal for both beets and bedrooms, it could only get better. I’m sure I'll see you in the check-out line.

Beet-Feta Tart

Adapted from a very nice woman at a dinner party

1 half-recipe Martha Stewart’s pâte brisée without sugar (flaky pie dough, enough for one 9” tart)
2 medium-sized red beets, washed, roasted (at 400 degrees in an aluminum foil packet for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until very tender; you don’t want a crunchy beet here), and peeled
2 large eggs
¾ cup milk (I used whole)
4 oz French feta, crumbled
A pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the pâte brisée into a circle large enough to line a 9” round removable-bottom tart pan. Transfer the dough into the pan, pressing it gently to the edge and up along the sides. Line the dough-lined tart pan with a sheet of aluminum foil, and place enough beans, rice, or pie weights in the aluminum foil to cover the base of the tart pan in a single layer. This will prevent the dough from puffing when you blind-bake it. Place the tart pan in the oven, and bake for 15 or so minutes, until the edges of the tart shell look set and barely golden. Remove the aluminum foil and weights from the tart pan, and continue baking until the tart shell is light golden. Remove the tart pan from the oven and allow to cool.

Turn the oven down to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Meanwhile, cut the roasted and peeled beets into ¼-inch slices. Mix the eggs, milk, feta, and salt in a small bowl or measuring cup.

Arrange the beet slices in the blind-baked tart shell, taking care to cover the base of the shell as well as possible. It is preferable to only have one layer of beets, although you may want to add an extra beet here or there to cover an empty spot. Pour the egg mixture over the beets.

Bake the tart for 40 minutes to an hour, until the filling is set and lightly golden in areas. Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.


Blogger Kathy said...

that sounds delicious! what is m4w?

2:33 PM, May 01, 2005  
Blogger Jarofpencils said...

Did you happen to catch the article in the NYTimes this morning about "Cook Dating". What a great idea!


8:33 PM, May 01, 2005  
Blogger Molly said...

Thanks, Kathy--it IS delicious! And to answer your question, "m4w" means "man seeking woman" in craigslist-speak.

And Jarofpencils, I did see that article! Pretty cute idea, hmm? As a matter of fact, the article was written by fellow food-blogger Clotilde Dusoulier, of Chocolate & Zucchini...

10:22 PM, May 01, 2005  
Blogger Zarah Maria said...

The tart sounds terrific Molly! Would it be alright to eat it in the bedroom you think? Heh...

3:16 AM, May 02, 2005  
Blogger tara said...

I evidently am one that is susceptible to suggestion ... I just spent the last 1/2 hour reading those "missed connections" and I don't even live in Seattle! They're addictive!
Every time you make Martha's crust, I'm impressed by how delicate, yet pillowy, it seems.
As for beets, I've had a bit of a love/hate relationship with these subsurface dwellers (bad, bad pickled beets at a picnic). However, I may have to try this recipe and reassess my view... But, I only have Greek feta in the house. Would you reccomend changing the quantity? Or should I seek out the French?

9:45 AM, May 02, 2005  
Blogger Molly said...

Excellent thinking, Zarah Maria, although I don't know...the buttery crust could make things a bit messy, and oh, those nasty beet stains!

And tara, thank you for the compliments on my crust! Martha has taught me well. As for the feta, hmmm. I tend to think of Greek feta as being a bit less salty and a bit more tangy than the French variety, but I don't think it should make a bit of different in the tart. Good luck patching up your relationship with beets!

10:26 AM, May 02, 2005  
Blogger Emmeya said...

i looove beets, used to eat them raw from the fields of the farm i worked on...and now i've wasted a 1/2 hour reading craig's list missed connections.

10:50 AM, May 02, 2005  
Blogger Jen said...

You know, I hated beets growing up, but between this post and the Good Eats episode on beets that I caught recently, I'm going to have to give them another try. I never used to like a lot of the things I eat now...

Thanks for yet another inspiring post!

1:10 PM, May 02, 2005  
Blogger Molly said...

Raw beets! Emmeya, now, THAT is hardcore.

Jen, I hope that you do give beets another try. I'm sure that Alton Brown had a lot of helpful hints to offer...I'll have to look up that Good Eats episode.

5:03 PM, May 02, 2005  
Blogger nosheteria said...

I live in the Bay Area where we have 5 different sections of craigslist missed connections to go through. Truly a guilty pleasure, missed connections do wonders for the procrastinator in me.

11:30 AM, May 03, 2005  
Blogger Dawna said...

After reading your description, I'm wondering if you shouldn't consider re-naming the tart something fancy, like, oh... Pink Satin Tart, or Satin & Lace Tart! It sounds like perfect Valentine's fare.

12:47 PM, May 03, 2005  
Blogger Molly said...

nosheteria, it's a good thing that my craigslist habit wasn't yet in full swing when I lived in the Bay Area...I might not have made it through college, what with so many distractions! Oof.

Dawna, your tart titles definitely trump mine! Perhaps I need a recipe title consultant...I'll keep you in mind...

11:00 PM, May 03, 2005  
Blogger TanTian said...

I hate to say this, but I don't think even that beautiful tart can change my genetic intolerance for beets. The closest I have gotten to a beet in the last 5 years is when I wore one around my neck as part of my deadbeat costume on Halloween.

3:16 PM, May 04, 2005  
Blogger Molly said...

TanTian, you know, I'm surprisingly forgiving about these kinds of shortcomings. Plus, that costume earns you HUGE points.

3:23 PM, May 05, 2005  
Anonymous helen said...

beets make me think of rancho la puerta. mmm....rancho la puerta.

molly, i thought of you when i had a good affogato in sf last night. remember our affogato at rose's back in the day? mmm.

i used to read the missed connections in the sf guardian like it was my job. now that i'm moving back to sf (yay!), i can get back to work.

7:53 PM, May 05, 2005  
Blogger lauren said...

does anyone have an opinion on what seems a strange custom to me? In new zealand, beetroot on hamburgers is the norm. at some places you need to remember to say no beet when you order your burger. it is kind of in place of a big slice of onion...


5:57 PM, May 06, 2005  
Blogger Molly said...

Helen, weren't there pickled beets or something on the "blitz plate" at the Ranch? Or were those pickled onions? Hmmm, I suppose it will remain a mystery until I get back down there...sniffle, sniffle. Yes, mmm...Rancho La Puerta. I'll take another black bean tostada, please.

And as for SF, it's funny that you mention Rose's...I had lunch there at Christmastime with my mom, my aunt, and my grandmother. My aunt pointed out that I had introduced her to the place, but I hardly remembered it! I do remember an affogato somewhere, but sadly, my Rose's days have faded from memory. I'll just have to come visit you and make up for lost time. Yes? Yes.

And lauren, this beet-on-the-hamburger information is a bit disturbing even to me, a devoted beet lover. Beets with beef? Hmm. Are they pickled beets? Either way, I think I would have to pass.

6:31 PM, May 06, 2005  
Anonymous keiko said...

Hi Molly - I don't know why but I love beets everything... your tart looks scrumptious! Thanks for telling what m4w means too :)

2:37 AM, May 08, 2005  
Blogger Molly said...

Thank you, keiko! So glad to know that you're a beet enthusiast too!

1:28 PM, May 08, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your blog is great thanks for sending me the url.
I love beets - when the time is right. Storage beets are rather wooden and in my opinion not particularly good for anything other than borscht. I eat beets in the late spring when they are young and sweet.
Your tart sounds like a perfect way to treat them. I wonder how it would look with golden beets (which cook to such a glorious hue) or how it would taste with chioggias which are also rather pretty and just a little more delicate in flavour and sweeter.
I have to get back to work but I am looking forward to reading more.

5:53 PM, May 11, 2005  
Blogger Molly said...

Thank you, the ARCH (archdiocese? archenemy? archangel?)! Tiny, tender, sweet beets are just starting to arrive in the markets here, so earlier this week I roasted a few red and golden ones, peeled them, sliced them, and tossed them with lemon juice, olive oil, some good salt, and fresh mint. Delicious. Speaking of golden beets, I think they'd be lovely in this tart, both looks- and flavor-wise. I'll have to try it soon...

9:52 AM, May 12, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The ARCH stands for all of the above - and for The Archivist. Ask your boss.

12:28 PM, May 12, 2005  
Blogger Molly said...

Ah ha, The ARCH...I sense a story here. Will indeed ask the boss.

8:05 AM, May 13, 2005  
Anonymous Liz W. said...

Hey Molly. I met you and Brandon briefly once over at Ashley and Chris' house during a wedding invitation consult. I'm in Tucson now and your blog has become one of my go-to staples for recipes when I've got some particularly lovely ingredient. I made this tart tonight following what seems like the 20th week in a row that beets showed up in the Tucson CSA we belong to. Beets are one of my favorite foods but I honestly groaned to see them AGAIN.

I'm a "use up what's on hand" kind of cook and made this tart with one enormous chioggia and one giganticus traditional beet, Greek feta, fresh goat cheese (also CSA) rolled in a little rosemary and marjoram, splashed the beets with lemon juice after roasting, and added perhaps a tsp. of zest. I also confess to using a frozen deep dish pie crust.

It's simply delicious and totally beautiful. The lemon a nice addition, I think. I made two in hopes of using up the beets (no such luck) but am now delighted to give one to a friend tomorrow. Thank you for your phenomenal blog. We've fallen in with a very food-motivated crowd down here (shocking); know that the orangette gospel is spreading like wildfire in southern arizona!

11:23 PM, May 04, 2008  
Blogger Molly said...

Hi Liz! I was just asking about you a couple of weeks ago, at Ashley's birthday party, and she told me that you were in Tucson. Good to hear from you! And I'm so glad that this tart was a success. I love the idea of adding some lemon and herbs - brilliant! Like you, I've been feeling very tired of beets lately, but now, hearing about your variations, I'm tempted to make this tart again...

10:53 AM, May 08, 2008  
Anonymous sabine said...

can't wait to cook this one up, as soon as my beets decide to make a showing in my garden. I wonder if this could be made with beet greens?!? Rainbow chard?!?

12:41 PM, June 21, 2008  
Blogger katie hargrave said...

mmm...i'm making this on a rainy fall day with farmers market beets. great. and as for beets as an aphrodisiac, have you read tom robbins' jitterbug perfume, which is about perfume made from beets. great.

2:05 PM, October 22, 2008  
Blogger Kristin said...

I will never get tired of beets. They're like the candy I can't stop eating. I'm making this tomorrow. I know it's a little late coming, but thanks for this. It will make my tummy very happy.

6:31 PM, November 01, 2008  
Anonymous Michele @ FoodieView said...

Thank you, Molly, for another beautiful, creative, and delicious dish... We are so excited to have it (and your yummy photo) featured in this week's FoodieView Recipe Roundup!

1:34 PM, February 17, 2009  
Blogger David said...

I made this over the weekend with some golden beets I had roasted. I had greek feta on hand so I used that. It was delicious and everybody who had some loved it. Thanks for the recipe - it's going in my stable of regulars!

10:06 AM, February 23, 2009  
Blogger elisabeth said...

As of tonight we've made this tart 5 times. We've made it w/ greek feta, french feta and chevre. All were delicious but I think we like the french feta the best.

Thank you for sharing this recipe! It's absolutely been the best way to use up those beets from our CSA box!

9:40 PM, June 02, 2010  
Blogger Side Stitches said...

Thank you for loving this unloved root! This tart is delicious. I adapted it and posted it on my blog www.sidestitches.blogspot.com. Thanks for sharing your awesome recipes!

8:15 AM, February 19, 2011  
Anonymous Shut Up and Cook said...

What fun to read all these great beet recipe ideas!

Here's one I recently did that was delicious.

Beet Salad tossed in an Anchovy Infused Balsamic Dressing, served on a Bed of Baby Arugula and topped with a Farm Fresh Soft Boiled Egg

Recipe and pix here: http://wp.me/puWta-cZ

Happy Spring!!!

1:14 PM, April 30, 2011  

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